By Rachel Phillips
For the businesses in Warren County, the end of summer sometimes means business slowing, or even coming to a full stop as they close up shop until next year.
Tourism in the Adirondacks is a $1.5 billion industry, which supports over 21,000 jobs, officials say. Of that sum, Warren County takes in 42 percent of the region’s tourism sales.
Officials report the 2019 summer tourist season was strong for local businesses.
Data collected from Smith Travel Research reports that Warren County’s occupancy was up to 78.63 percent in July, and 81.6 percent in August, an increase of 4.6 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.
The report is compiled from the data offered by participating hotels in the area. In addition to the percentage of available rooms booked during each month, it also follows the prices of rooms throughout the seasons. For example, the average rate of a hotel room in August was around $203, and in February it was only $128. While only one source of data, the report can help locals and business owners to understand the area’s economic patterns.
According to Gina Mintzer, executive director of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, there were a number of factors that played into the area’s successful summer season. In addition to new large-brand hotels in the area, Mintzer said the new Adirondacks welcome center, located between Northway exits 17 and 18, helped increase business.
“They have staff there that can talk to potential visitors who stop on their way to Lake Placid, Vermont or Canada, and tell them about things that they can do in the area,” said Mintzer. “We felt that was very beneficial to us here in Warren County.”
After many businesses reported soft mid-week sales in 2018, boosting mid-week business became a major goal of the 2019 season. Between the 2019 Americade in Lake George, as well as the Adventure Travel Trade Association conference, the season started out strong.
The conference “brought 350 media members and tour group operators to the area. That helped to foster publicity all summer long, because some of them were writers and bloggers,” said Mintzer.
The weather also plays a role in how well the season plays out.
Edward Bartholomew, president EDC Warren, said while good weather encourages visitors to stay longer, he hopes diversifying the types of events and activities will mitigate the risks of inclement weather.
“The more indoor events we have to offer, the better. It’s also the promotion of the arts that we have all through the Warren County, and particularly the arts district in downtown Glens Falls,” said Bartholomew.
While this past summer was strong overall for local businesses, local leaders like Mintzer and Bartholomew are taking steps to increase the area’s appeal for tourists and visitors all year long.
“There are parts of the county that are open year-round, like downtown Glens falls, and then parts of lake George are summer only, so we wanted to be sure to tell the story that the shutters don’t just shut on Labor Day,” Mintzer said.
One thing that could help encourage more off-season tourism is the renovations and improvements being made to existing hotels. While some hotels are adding new amenities or event spaces, others will stay open for the weekends, or have a limited number of rooms available during the fall and winter, officials said. In addition, some restaurants are choosing to stay open all year, as well.
“It seems to be more of a business initiative. So, businesses see their neighbors improving, staying open more, and it starts a trend,” she said.
The increase in events in the area during the fall, winter and spring should help business. Events such as Lite Up the Village in November and Christkindlmarkt in December, add to existing off-season events, such as the Fright Fest at The Great Escape, Restaurant Week in September, and the Lake George The Annual Adirondack Nationals Car Show the weekend after Labor Day. There is also an annual jazz festival in Lake George village in September.
While Gore Mountain and West Mountain have always attracted skiers and snowboarders during the winter, adding activities such as zip lining and mountain biking has offered people more to do during the fall, officials said.
According to Bartholomew, diversification is key to increasing tourism year-round, especially in the face of unknown snow and ski slope conditions. The Adirondacks provide ample locations for activities such as fishing, snowmobiling, hunting and skiing. But indoor events are essential. The area’s Arts District, including the Hyde Museum, the Wood and Park theaters, the Children’s Museum, and the Shirt Factory are all avenues that help diversify the area’s appeal.
Hockey games at the Cool Insuring Arena Civic Center and even tournaments at the Dome Arena in Queensbury are also events that help.
“The dome brings in a number of volleyball, softball, basketball and soccer tournaments throughout the year, which are also available in the winter. These are the sorts of things that are more unique that we offer. The tournaments help fill up the hotels and such,” said Bartholomew.
Tying in with Mintzer’s insights about increasing lodging during the off-seasons, Bartholomew agreed that having more hotels open improves the area’s chances for business.
“The dome puts in bids for a particular tournament, and one of the questions they will ask is how many hotels, restaurants and activities are nearby, and it’s helpful to be able to point to the local businesses. With returning tournaments, what happens is people start exploring the area a little … and maybe they’ll want to come back to the area in the summer for a vacation. This helps gives exposure to the area. Then there are the downtown Glens Falls holiday activities that attract people. You can’t get more Christmasy than being in the Adirondacks during Christmas with the snow.”
Time will tell which efforts will help keep the area’s tourist appeal alive during the fall, winter and spring, but community leaders are hopeful that the many charms of the Warren County area will continue to attract visitors all throughout the year.
By Rachel Phillips